Student makes temporary home in Brazil

Katie Sisk, staff writer

Sophomore Wiley Dotzenroth packed his bags and headed for Fortaleza, Brazil the day before Valentine’s Day to partake in a foreign exchange program. While some may see this foreign country as a vacation destination, Dotzenroth will call it his temporary home for the next ten and a half months while he attends school at Christus school.

Having seen the foreign exchange students at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Dotzenroth was eager to experience the foreign exchange program first-hand. “Well, in the past years we’ve had many exchange students, and I’ve watched them come here, and I just want to go see what it’s like to go there,” said Dotzenroth.

One foreign exchange student in particular solidified his decision. “When I saw [Miguel] come to school, I thought it was more of an inspiration, saying ‘hey this kid’s in my grade and he’s coming to America.’ It just kind of made me think ‘I need to get it done,’” said Dotzenroth.

Dotzenroth looks forward to using this opportunity as a learning experience. “I want to be able to speak their language and learn their culture,” said Dotzenroth.

The planning process was hasty, yet very involved. “This all came together in one month

…Dr. Skinner had to make sure that I could get my credits [from Brazil] transferred over to Benilde, so I could graduate with a high school diploma. That was the first part. Then once we had the letter from Dr. Skinner saying that that would be O.K. and a letter from Christus saying that I could come to Brazil and study at their school, I applied for a visa,” said Dotzenroth.

While much of the experience will be unfamiliar, he already has a personal relationship with his host family. “Their nephew, his name was Tiago, he lived with us about 15 years ago and ever since then we’ve just kept in contact,” said Dotzenroth.

Although he already knows his host family, Dotzenroth will have to adjust to a much different schedule. “School ends at 12 o’clock so we don’t eat lunch at school, we come home for lunch…but the school year is one month extra,” said Dotzenroth.

Because of the different school year, Dotzenroth will finish high school a little out of order. “I’m doing my entire junior year [in Brazil], I’m coming back and finishing my sophomore year [at Benilde] in 2012. Then after that I’ll be graduating with the senior class,” said Dotzenroth.

While the sophomore class has lost one student, another may come in his place. “[The host family] has a son my age named Yago, and we were thinking of doing a swap, him going to Minnesota while I come [to Brazil],” said Dotzenroth.

Though excited to be in Brazil, the snowy Minnesota winters will be missed by Dotzenroth. “I kind of miss snow. I like skiing and snowboarding, but I went to the ocean today and I kind of thought twice about it,” said Dotzenroth.

Dotzenroth feels slightly unsure of more than just the weather however. “I’m not quite sure how school will go there…just understanding the teachers and notes,” said Dotzenroth.

While the language barrier makes school an even greater challenge, Dotzenroth has much support. “It’s very close to Spanish, and Iago, the boy my age, speaks very very good English, and he can help translate and teach me. His sisters are always willing to help me out; they’re always teaching me something,” said Dotzenroth.